Tell us a little about yourself. Where you live, what you do for a living.
My name is Janani Shivakumar. I live in Metuchen, New Jersey and I am a sophomore at Metuchen High School.
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I am the founder of a not-for-profit initiative, Girls Play Global (GirlsPlayGlobal.org) and our aim is to educate and empower girls in rural parts of India through sports and also create awareness about global issues like climate change and gender equality.
What led you to veganism? How long ago?
I was raised a vegetarian by my parents because they knew that it wasn’t right to take the life of another living being unnecessarily. But what they weren’t aware of, is that the dairy and egg industry are just as cruel as the meat industry, if not worse. When I was in 9th grade, I watched a video and researched about the dairy industry and I was shocked by the horrors that went on behind the doors of cruel industries. Soon I realized that I had blood on my hands even as a vegetarian. I went vegan immediately and have been vegan for over 6 months now.
When you first went vegan, how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?
Phasing out of non-vegan food wasn’t very difficult for me because the only thing I needed to cut out, was dairy. Since I was thinking about the victim’s perspective, it didn’t seem hard at all to make the switch despite what other people told me. I immediately switched over to almond milk and bought other vegan and cruelty-free products. I had never owned any leather or fur but I did have a down jacket, which I replaced.
Do you make any exceptions when it comes to veganism?
I am not married and don’t have kids yet haha because I’m still in high school. But I am quite strict about it at family gatherings and even with my parents. Fortunately, I was able to help my dad make the switch to veganism and he went vegan a week after I did. My mom is still vegetarian but she happily cooks vegan food for me and she is working on cutting out dairy products as well.
Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meat?
Of course, as a collective society, we have been hiding the truth from children for a long time and they deserve to know the truth because I don’t believe any child would still eat animal products if they had seen where their food came from. Unfortunately, kids are taught speciesism from the day they’re born, to value the life of one species over another and it is important that they are made aware of the reality of cruel industries.
What does being vegan mean to you?
I went vegan solely for the animals because I don’t want to be the reason innocent animals suffer and die simply for a few minutes of pleasure. I believe that they are not ours to use and exploit in any way, shape or form and they should not be seen as commodities. I think it definitely does extend to insects as well since they also have the capacity to feel the pain which is why vegans choose not to consume honey. Being vegan to me also means being compassionate to humans because we are after all animals as well and we should strive to build a society of equality and love towards all living beings.
Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?
At the rate animals are still being exploited, I feel that the message of animal liberation isn’t spreading as fast as it should be. Since going vegan is also the easiest thing we can do to prevent a climate catastrophe, speaking up about it is crucial. So I definitely believe that it’s every vegan’s duty to become an activist because it’s the least we can do.
How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?
I am compassionate and empathetic towards non-vegans because most of us ate animal products at one point in our lives. But that was primarily due to ignorance. Most people I talk to aren’t aware of the exploitation and cruelty that goes on in animal agriculture industries so I am considerate in explaining things to them to help them make the switch.
Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?
For anyone interested in becoming an activist, I would definitely recommend following organizations like the Animal Save Movement and Anonymous for the Voiceless because they have a lot of informative content as well as videos that serve as a reminder for who we’re fighting for.
Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?
I have watched several documentaries about veganism and animal rights but I definitely recommend watching Dominion, The Animal People, and The Game Changers.
What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?
My favorite vegan restaurant is Nature’s Plate, a wonderful place in Keyport, NJ.
Please share your favorite vegan recipe?
I’m not a huge cook but my family loves to make a famous Indian dish, channa (spicy chickpea gravy) with roti (Indian flatbread).
Some encouraging words for new Vegans?
For new vegans, a lot of
people will question you and your beliefs at first but it’s important that you
stay true to yourself and focus on aligning your actions with your values.
During times where it may feel difficult, don’t feel like you have to make any
sacrifices, rather put yourself in the place of the animals and really reflect
on why you are vegan. Also, never be afraid to speak up for what is right and
take every opportunity you can get to spread the message!
What is the vegan scene like in your city?
My city is quite small so there are no all-vegan places here although we do have a grocery store nearby which all have amazing vegan alternatives and ingredients to make your own delicious food.
What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?
As an activist, I meet a lot of new people every time I attend protests, disruptions, vigils or a Cube of Truth so getting active is definitely a great way to meet like-minded people who are just as passionate as you are.
What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?
Living cruelty-free to me means avoiding all products that are made from animal products or tested on animals as far as practically possible. So that could mean buying beauty products like shampoo or toothpaste from companies that do not test on animals. I think as vegans, we not only believe in showing compassion to non-human animals but humans as well because when we are able to care and fight for someone that we barely even know, it, in turn, allows us to care for people better as well.
What are your favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?
I love Alba Botanica’s products because they sell vegan and cruelty beauty products that work really well.
What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?
I honestly don’t think there is any because in this day and age there is a vegan alternative for almost everything. So usually I am able to find everything I need!
Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?
As a student, I attend various educational and summer programs as well as conferences that would take place for the entire or several days and there have been times where I have had nothing more than a salad to eat which can sometimes be a struggle. Also, I have had a lot of family members and friends not take me seriously and make fun of me for being vegan but it doesn’t bother me too much because I understand the purpose behind my choices and I will continue to do my part to stop the unnecessary cruelty and exploitation of sentient beings.